Socialist Worker

‘Welfare hawk’ hunts pensions

Issue No. 1976

The government is preparing further assaults on pensions and incapacity benefit.

Last week Tony Blair moved Gareth Davies, a senior civil servant from the Downing Street policy unit, to work alongside John Hutton, the new work and pensions secretary.

The Financial Times described Davies as a “welfare hawk”.

The paper also added, “There is a growing belief that Downing Street wants to toughen the government’s drive to get the long-term sick and disabled back into jobs and is, in effect, taking over the running of the Department for Work and Pensions with the appointment of Mr Hutton, a political ally of Mr Blair, and Mr Davies.”

Davies is believed to be in favour of a rise in the age at which people can get the basic state pension from 65 to 67 or 70. This is likely to be the recommendation of the Turner pension commission when it reports on 30 November.

Meanwhile talks continue over the local government pension scheme. Over one million local government workers have not even been offered the bad deal presented recently to NHS staff, teachers and civil service workers.

The isolation of local government workers is one reason why the TUC and public sector unions should not have accepted that deal.

The government wants to abolish or severely restrict the “rule of 85” which allows some workers to retire at 60 if they have worked for 25 years in local government.

Activists in the Unison union are calling for a lobby or stunt at the next set of talks to put pressure on the employers and the government.

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Sat 12 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1976
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